Defending chocolate: Askinosie

This might sound like a random pick. I didn’t do many chocolate reviews so far, so why elaborate on chocolates made by Askinosie? Partly, it’s random indeed1, but Askinosie is also a great chocolate maker that is still far less known than many of the ‘classic’ bean-to-bar chocolate makers2.

One of Askinosie's chocolate bars that's definitely worth a try: the dark goat milk! One of Askinosie’s chocolate bars that’s definitely worth a try: the dark goat milk!

Akinosie was founded in 2007 by Shawn Askinosie, a former criminal defense lawyer, which might only give you a hint that there is an interesting story behind this company (I am not going to tell it, they do a better job themselves on their website).
I guess the main reason I felt that I needed to write about their chocolate is that I didn’t have their chocolates on my radar but then got surprised several times in a row by different types of their chocolates. First came the dark goat milk chocolate! What a great chocolate! Until today this remains the only milk chocolate I ever ate that could compete with good dark ones in terms of flavor complexity3. It really is a very dark milk chocolate and the subtle goat milk flavor makes it only more appealing.
Then I tasted their white chocolate. I am not at all a fan of white chocolate, but Askinosie caught my interest because they only use cocoa butter that they press from high-quality beans and they don’t deodorize it4. In addition they add goat milk powder instead of ‘normal’ milk powder5. Sounded interesting to me. But I really really didn’t like the taste at all. Made me think of the smell from new-bought plastic boxes… let’s say it didn’t turn me into a white chocolate lover.
Anyway. I quickly forgot about the white chocolate when I went on to taste some of their dark chocolates. They are truly great chocolates I found, so I had to open four of them at a time…
The least impressive to me was the 72% Tenende (Tanzania) bar. I clearly found it nice too eat, it has a very smooth texture and pleasant caramel flavor with some spicy notes (that means: that’s how it tastes to me6 ). I was surprised to strongly sense pungent notes and red pepper or chili, but apart from that the chocolate was nice but not overly complex or long-lasting.
I really liked the 70% Cortés (Honduras) bar. Very fine, creamy texture. Pleasant acidic beginning, red fruit notes… very good. But now let’s come to two dark chocolate bars that are clearly outstanding!
The 70% San José del Tambo (Ecuador) bar already got me with its intense, spicy cinnamon smell. It indeed turns out to have many spicy notes, combines with raspberry, vanilla, and flower aromas. Really a fantastic chocolate! I found the same to be true (maybe even more?) for the 77% Davao (Philippines). Strong, intense flavors… pronounced tannins on the tongue… pleasant bitter notes together with a nice acidity and fruitiness, as well as some complex fermented flavors. Wow!

Footnotes
  1. I happen to sit in front of four opened Askinosie chocolates enjoying my evening… []
  2. Such as Domori, Pacari, Prallus, … []
  3. Nothing against milk chocolate per se. I like good milk chocolates and enjoy them very much. They are even a far better (that is: more addictive) ‘snack’ and in moments of despair or frustration I would always first consult a helping milk chocolate. BUT, I nearly always find their chocolate aromas far less complex which was totally confirmed during an excellent tasting I had at Chocolátl in Amsterdam. []
  4. Which is a very good marketing point since cocoa butter is something like a “weak spot” for many chocolate makers. Many people add some cocoa butter to their chocolate to get a creamier texture, but don’t have the resources to get it from their own beans. So strictly speaking you add cocoa butter from another source to your “single-origin” chocolate. Personally I don’t consider this a big deal, because most of the times the cocoa butter content is quite small and since most people use de-odorized cocoa butter it anyway doesn’t introduce noticeable flavors. []
  5. White chocolate consists of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk powder. Plus lecithin and vanilla in some cases. []
  6. Like many other foods or drinks people often describe the flavor in terms of other well-known flavors, but this is by no means an objective game. Two different persons will find two different flavor profiles. Most of time at least. So don’t take it too seriously. []

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